Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Songwriterobit: Jerry Leiber

The headlines are calling him Elvis Presley's songwriter, but Jerry Leiber, who has died, was more than that.

Of course, the Presley songs helped fix the idea of rock and roll in the popular mind - though it's worth remembering that they weren't so much writing for Presley. Hound Dog, for example, was originally created for Big Mama Thornton, and sounded like this:

With his partner Mike Stoller, Jerry produced as well as wrote, and for a while also ran a label, Spark, which would eventually be absorbed by Atlantic. But mainly they wrote - dozens and dozens and dozens of songs, many of which are now so familiar that it's hard to imagine the music world without them. There's also a bunch which showed a range and a subtlety of talent that could be squeezed out of their work in the hands of Presley.

Edith Piaf translated Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots in the French for L'Homme A La Moto; they were also responsible for Is That All There Is:

The pair were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and achieved 15 hits during their career.

Jerry Leiber died of cardiopulmonary failure. He was 78.